WA AIDS Council says the community needs a better understanding of HIV

The WA AIDS Council (WAAC) is highlighting that many people in the wider community still need to update their understanding of HIV in terms of PEP treatment, PrEP treatment and what it means to have an undetectable viral load.

The health advice comes in the light of media reports over the weekend that an HIV-positive man who infected four sexual partners with the virus has been jailed for five years.

CEO of WAAC, Lisa Dobrin, says if an individual has been exposed, or suspects they have been exposed to HIV, they should present to an Emergency Department or GP and ask for Post Exposure Prophylaxis, known as PEP.

“PEP is a short course of medication taken very soon after exposure to HIV to prevent the virus from taking hold in the body,” she says. “It’s important to start it within 72 hours after being exposed to HIV for it to be effective, so every hour counts.”

WAAC is also reminding West Australians that we all have a responsibility to protect sexual partners from HIV.

“WAAC promotes the use of condoms and water-based lubricant during vaginal and/or anal sex to prevent transmission of HIV, in addition to other sexually transmitted infections such as Syphilis, which is currently on the rise in the Perth metropolitan area after an outbreak in northern regional areas of WA was unable to be contained,” Dobrin said.

For decades now HIV has been categorised as a chronic manageable illness, and almost all people living with HIV now lead long and healthy lives as a result of better treatments. When treatments suppress levels of HIV in a person’s blood and other bodily fluids to ‘undetectable’ levels, this results in zero risk of HIV transmission from someone on HIV treatment, who has an undetectable viral load.

“While protecting your sexual partners from HIV is everyone’s responsibility, having HIV no longer limits people from having fulfilled and satisfying lives, including sex lives,” Dobrin said.

“Disclosing your HIV positive status can often lead to stigma and discrimination which is why WAAC has long advocated against the criminal prosecution of people with HIV, which has been shown to undermine public health efforts and inappropriately label people with HIV as dangerous and harmful.”

WAAC provides a wide range of services and supports that are non-judgmental, inclusive and easy to access including counselling and support services for LGBTI+ people and people living with HIV, a sexual health testing clinic for men who have sex with men, a drop-in space for LGBTI+ young people, peer mentoring, resources and education on sexual health, as well as free condoms. These services are offered for free or at an affordable cost for all residents as well as international students.

WAAC exists to minimise the impact and further transmission of HIV, sexually transmissible infections and other blood borne viruses, in addition to reducing social, legal and policy barriers which prevent access to health information and effective support and prevention. More information on their services can be found on their website.

Source: Media Release


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